The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Lack Of Women In Technology And Why I Don’t Touch Type

photo of hands on a keyboard

There has been a lot of talk and activity about encouraging more young women to enter the technology fields, whether engineering or software or any technical role. Much of the reason for the outside effort is that girls and young women are not typically encouraged to enter these fields.

When I first started hearing about these kind of efforts, I was initially surprised, namely as I have had the good fortune to work with many women over the years in software development and Web technology. Where when many think of the traditional “geek” it is a guy, there have been many women I would also consider geeks, and if I told them to their face, they would probably agree with me!

Perhaps maybe I am an anomaly, for as I pull back and see the big picture, I do see there are many more men in tech, whether it’s in the leadership within a company or within the industry overall. I haven’t studied this area in great detail as to statistics or even why there may be people discouraging women from getting into technology. For the more I think about it, I am not surprised that teachers, guidance counselors or even parents or family may discourage someone from taking classes in a subject area, as this was something I encountered myself.

I Don’t Know How to Touch Type

All that you are reading here, including the infrastructure and front-end code that presents my writings here on The Hot Iron, were entered into a keyboard with just my index fingers, plus my thumbs on the spacebar. Seriously, I don’t know how to touch type, and not only did I never take a class in high school to learn how to, but I was encouraged not to.

Though I was using computers back in junior high school, had my own computer at home and even did my first consulting gig for the assistant superintendent of my school system plus it was overall no secret I was into computers, the fact I should probably learn to touch type did not come naturally to my guidance counselors in high school. Their reasoning? As I was on the “college track” in high school, this was not a recommended course to take, and typing – which was offered in school – was encouraged for those not going into college and rather right into the workforce. Seriously, that was the thinking in the early 1980’s. I never did fight this, for by that point I had been typing this way for several years now.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not anything that has ever haunted me as a decision. I have managed to get by with just 40% of my digits on the keyboard and I am actually quite quick at typing this way. The reason why I remember this is because people, upon watching me type, will always ask me why I don’t touch type. As the question comes up almost as frequently as to why I sign my email messages as I do, it is a story that is readily accessible. Over the years I could have taken a typing class but never even made an effort to do so, as I am not sure how much different it would have made. Of course I am not saying this “guidance” led me down a different path, but it is a small example of the types of influences that are out there.

Expose To Most All, Let Them Decide

The more I think of this effort, the more I believe in it. As a parent, I don’t want to purposely hold back my kids from any career or activity decision, providing I can afford it. Though this is nothing I am worried about now, for right now my oldest first needs to learn to read, and my youngest needs to finish potty training! But by the time they are older, hopefully there won’t be a need for organizations like Ms. Tech and the many others, for opportunities will be chosen based on your interest, not negative outside influences.

I welcome you to share any stories – positive or negative or even anecdotal – on this subject in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/20/14 at 03:55 PM
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Friday, January 17, 2014

What I Learned This Week For January 17 2014

photo of What I Learned list

So that I wouldn’t forget anything, I decided to carry around a piece of paper with me, or rather a leftover envelope from our over-order of Christmas cards. Looking back on the week, I picked up a few useful pieces of knowledge, as well as some random information. So here goes.

  • You can get Hood Dairy coffee creamers in the Midwest. Hood is a New England brand I grew up with and have never seen them outside of that area.
  • I took my very first-ever yoga class this week, and I don’t know why I never did it before. It was awesome for my mind and my body. The class is an introduction to yoga offered by Tejas Yoga in Chicago’s South Loop, and where I can’t make it next week, this is something I want to make a regular part of my week.
  • If you sign-up for Jason Jacobsohn’s Networking Insight newsletter, a great resource for networking tips, he will also put you on his Chicagoland Entrepreneur Events newsletter, listing the latest events for tech start-ups in the area.
  • The 2014 Liver Life Walk to support the American Liver Foundation’s Great Lakes Chapter will be on SATURDAY, June 14, and The “A” Team is already registered.
  • The days when neighbors who are having a party invite you as a courtesy, whether they want you to really come or you yourself want to go, are apparently over.
  • I found the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my wife, or at least I hope it is. As she reads The Hot Iron I will not mention what it is, but if you ask me, and promise not to tell her, I will share.
  • In a conversation with Nan this week she said something we were talking about was not anything she would “die on the hill” over. I had never heard of that before, but I plan to use it.
  • I had been seeing these winter coats with a small circle emblem and I had no idea what it says or what brand it was. Then one day at Mariano’s someone at the checkout in front of me had one and I was able to read it was Canada Goose. I had never heard of them, and where it may be a nice coat and all, I am sticking with my LL Bean which is about a quarter of the cost.
  • Try calling a health insurance company and tell them they have been sending insurance materials, including insurance cards and statements, to someone at your home address who has never lived there. Not to mention they have been doing this for over a year and you have marked everything “return to sender, no such addressee” and put it back in the mail. You guessed it, they had no idea what to do with my call.
  • There are politics of work, politics of play and even politics of choirs, but I’ll take The Politics of Dancing any day – enjoy this 80’s video below or watch it on YouTube and have a nice weekend!

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/17/14 at 08:32 PM
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Controlling Your Own Destiny With Technology, Revisited

Over 5 years ago I wrote here on The Hot Iron about controlling your own destiny or controlling as much of it as possible. If you read (or re-read) the article, I was looking at this topic mostly from the point-of-view of working with external technology vendors and what happens when one doesn’t live up to expectations or even shuts down.

photo of Mike grabbing a phone, symbolizing controlling your tech destiny

Fast-forward to 2014, and my lens on this topic has changed dramatically. Where then I was talking about control you had over external entities, now I am thinking of my needs and my information and if I even need external entities at all.

As time goes by businesses online come and go, or in some cases specific services from those businesses. From GeoCities to Posterous to Nokia Ovi to you name it, one day something you are using is gone the next, and hopefully you don’t lose tangible assets – e.g. data, photos, documents, etc. – in the process. Granted losing sleep, your temper or clumps of hair are collateral damage of this type of situation.

Add to this the overall uncertainty of technology and business, not to mention the ever-changing terms of services from vendors that may change to your disadvantage, or truly not knowing what is “behind the curtain” with a service or who or what has access to it, you may end up in a situation fast where you need to quickly change course.

So what do you do? Where every situation is unique, I’d like to share the path I am taking these days when it comes to online services.

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

In short, that whole “goals” thing again! Having a goal, purpose, mission statement or random scribbles on a napkin can help guide you through the choices you make, In addition to the goal, think about other controllable factors, such as budget, timeline and how much time you have to invest initially as well as on-going. These factors can also influence your decision, no matter the goal.

Once you have gone through the goals and review process, and have made choice, pat yourself on the back, then plan for what happens if you have to make another change. As this change could occur next week or in the next decade, you don’t need a detailed, point-by-point plan, but you do need some information, such as contact, license, login and how you are using or customized the service. From there, determine how and to what extent you can extract data or information from the vendor or service, both for a final move or on a regular basis for off-site storage.

The Path of a Service Change

A couple of years back, after my several times a day ritual of reading what was new in the world in my RSS reader, Google Reader, I started to think about how I was reading, not what, and if there was a better way.

Google Reader, for those who don’t know, “was” a free RSS feed aggregator and reader from the search giant. It was a very popular service, but one that was slow to innovate. Despite this, I had over 200 RSS feeds subscribed to thru Google Reader, and it was my primary source for news and information, both on the world around me as well as technology, sports, and other topics of interest.

What I realized was quite simple – Google, or anyone who had access to the data stored in the Google Reader service, knows everything I read. Everything.

The more I thought about this, the more my decision became clear. There must be another way for me to aggregate and read RSS feeds where I have control of my destiny – the software, the service and most importantly the information. As I searched I found a variety of hosted services and software I could run myself. After some analysis and a personal recommendation from my good friend John Morrison, I went with Fever and have never looked back.

Fever is a self-hosted RSS reader developed by Shaun Inman. For just 1 person running the entire operation, Fever is a quality product. It is a paid license and is probably the best US$30 I have ever spent. With Fever I could get the same features I got from Google Reader, with a much more stylish Web interface, including a mobile-optimized experience for the iPhone’s Safari browser. It has a “hot” topic feature that I have never used and really can’t talk to, for the main functionality has suited me perfectly.

My migration from Google Reader to Fever meant installing the latter on a Web hosting service I use, then migrating the feeds from Reader to Fever. This step, though very straightforward, requires some knowledge of how a Web site with a database is setup and configured. For migrating the feeds, I could have automated the process and extracted all feeds and uploaded them into Fever. However I chose a manual process as I had not really taken a close look at all of the feeds I was subscribed to, and as a result I culled the collection by about 50 feeds, many which were no longer feeding any content at all.

In mid-2013, Google shut down its Reader service, causing an uproar from many, but not from me. By that point, I had been off of Reader for over a year. Google gave a long lead time to switch to any other service, which is now always the case. That being said, having control of the service means you own the information as well as how you access it.

Always Looking

As new methods, products and service become available, it is important to spend some time evaluating services. Reading and research alone are not enough, a stalking with friends and colleagues also help expose you to options as well as first-hand accounts of their utility.

Where in the past I have used services like Google Reader, Basecamp, Blogger and Google Calendar, today I am using Fever, ActiveCollab, ExpressionEngine and ownCloud respectively. I plan to talk more about some of these services in the future. But this is my list now, and it is subject to change without much advanced notice!

Have you yourself changes services or rolled your own, or is it something you don’t see yourself doing at all? I welcome your thoughts and questions in the comments of this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/14/14 at 11:25 PM
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Friday, January 10, 2014

What I Learned This Week So Far This Year For January 10 2014

photo of a hotel door latch

If a day goes by where you don’t learn something new, what good is it really? Sometimes that new nugget of knowledge is welcomed and cherished, and sometimes it is scary as all hell and you wished you didn’t know it. Nonetheless, learning is what we do on this journey of life, whether we like it or not.

As this is the first “normal” Friday of the 2014, I have decided to start writing what I have learned in the previous week. As it is already 10 days into January, I will also include what I learned since New Year’s, and maybe a thing or 2 from the holidays.

So here goes:

  • You know those latches that you put on your hotel room door at night? Do you think they are completely foolproof and nobody can get by them? I learned the hard way that you can, with a few pieces of paper and this creepy video on YouTube.
  • There is a Village of Lakemoor, Illinois and they have red light cameras.
  • While everybody is talking about how fast food employees don’t make enough money, do you know how much – or little – your child’s daycare teachers make? Or the person flying the airplane you are on now? As I have no links for this, it was based on personal conversations.
  • I was not the only person waiting for the Hug Train when it pulled into Chicago last week. It was great meeting Molly and of course great seeing Arie again.
  • I have always said you shouldn’t get used to a desk (and have thought of writing about that fact here at The Hot Iron) but I got a lot of work done this week back at OfficePort Chicago. Thanks to James, Shaul and Mike for allowing me to come back every so often to be productive and social! And if you are looking for co-working space in Chicago, you must check out OfficePort for yourself.
  • With all of the problems Southwest Airlines had over the last week with snowstorms, delays and baggage handlers, one area where they really shined was with social media. I was able to rebook flights for family via Twitter direct messages. Seriously, and direct messages only! Thanks to Verity at Southwest for your help.
  • Underground nuclear tests were done in Mississippi.
  • There is something called krav maga and it is good for you.
  • Recent start-ups in Chicago can allow me to: get my dry cleaning picked up and delivered within an hour of requesting it with Dryv, donate clothing and other items to Goodwill via UPS with Give Back Box, listen to the local news in a podcast-like format with Rivet News Radio, and if I had a store with ever-changing inventory I could easily maintain a Web site of it with Live Storefronts. I am exploring all of these services more and hope to write up more on them.

Maybe you learned something new yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/10/14 at 03:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

3 New Year’s Resolution for Digital Marketers

photo of CT MooreEditor’s Note – This is a guest post from CT Moore, a recovering agency hack who helps brand leverage search and social media to meet their business goals online. By day, he heads up Search and Social at Publikit, a boutique web dev agency in Montreal, and also runs Socialed, a digital consultancy that provides digital strategy to both start-ups and multinational brands alike. You can find out more about him through his personal blog.

Aha! Another year is about to come to close and a new one will soon begin. And if you’re any kind of marketer (or business person for that matter), you’ve probably started thinking about what you could start doing in 2014, or at least do better in 2014 than you did in 2013.

image text – Thanks for not laughing at my absurdly unattainable New Year’s resolutions

Well, if that’s the mind frame you’ve been in, I’d like to suggest 3 potential New Year’s Resolutions that you should probably apply toward your upcoming marketing efforts. I have to warn you, though: if you’ve already made up your mind on how to tackle things in 2014 and aren’t open to feedback, you should probably read no further — I’ll just end up saying “I told you so” wink

#1 OWN Your Media

image of large and small sumo wrestlers

Paid media is the placement you pay for: ads, commercials, etc. Earned media is the PR and social media wins you get from doing awesome stuff and providing great customer service.

Owned media, however, is the stuff you produce that people actually care about. In fact, what kinda of makes it “media” is that people actually pay attention to it (unlike ads). It can be anything from just really helpful how-to’s to outright entertaining viral stuff, but the point is that it gets you exposure with the right target market, just like PR or advertising would.

The only difference is that you made it. And right now, 78% of CMOs believe that branded content is the future of marketing, with 25% of budgets going to content. So in 2014, start thinking about how to own your media.

In fact, start investing in media worth owning. Because, at the end of the day, content is a lot like tattoos: it can be either cheap or good, but not both.

Good content costs money to make, and you have to keep at it for a while before it pays-off; but when it pays-off, it really pays-off. From branding to public relations to SEO, it’s one of the few channels that also contributes something to all the other channels.

#2 Get Serious About Mobile

image of cat with an iPhone with text – OMG WTFYeah, I know: a lot of you think you’re serious about mobile? But are you really? I mean, are you anywhere near the companies whose marketing you admire/envy, and/or can you actually implement the kind of strategies they have going on??

Now, I could dig up a bunch of stats and quote them to create urgency and make you sympathetic to my point. But, instead, I’ll just guess (i.e. “assume”) that enough of you reading this have smart phones (and are sufficiently attached to them) that I don’t need to do that kinda thing. So let me leave you with a kind of barometer / checklist to figure out just how the eff you’re supposed to tackle mobile in 2014:

  • Mobile Sites: I’m still shocked by just how many top-tier companies/sites/portals fail at this. If you don’t have a mobile site, get one. And if you already have one, make sure that I’m redirect to it if I visit your site from a mobile device.
  • Mobile App: If your business is driven by user-experience (e.g. commerce) or content, release that App already! No repeat customer or returning user wants to deal with your mobile site. And even here I can think of a few content portals who have an otherwise great mobile engagement strategy but no mobile app…
  • Mobile Campaigns: If you’re already investing in display ads, PPC, and/or SEO, start looking at how you can divert some of that toward targeting mobile users; there are enough of them using mobile apps and searching via mobile devices that you can’t afford no to.

Okay, so you get the point? Good! Let’s move on….

#3 Start Listening to Your Customers

image of world’s most interesting man with text – I don’t always ask for user feedback… but when I do, I use it for actionable insightSo maybe you’re already doing the mobile and content thing, or may you’re not but (hopefully) are gonna start. Either way, you’re going to have to measure your progress. And, of course, you’re going to be measuring and monitoring what user actually do once they engage with your brand.

But are you being proactive in that measurement? In other words, are you actually trying to gage how your users specifically and the market at large feel about your industry?

For starters, start looking at what people are already saying about both you and your competitors. Tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud are great for this kind of thing. They let you monitor not only your brand name but what people are saying about your industry and competitors, in general.

Step it up a notch, though, by finding what your actual user and site visitor think. There are a few service providers that can help you do this, but the (ubiquitous) one that comes to mind is iPerceptions. You’ve probably come across them in the form of their 4Q survey, which is a free tool. But they also offer a bunch of voice of customer measurement tools you can upgrade to to make sense of the data that you collect via the 4Q survey.

The point is (1) stop assuming you think you know better than your (potential) customers, and (2) stop looking at what your users might’ve done and start considering what they’re actually looking for. Because that’s the kind of insight that’s not only gonna help you step up your marketing game, but develop better products and services, the likes of which you might’ve not otherwise considered…

New Year, New Start

If you’ve read this far, I want to make one thing clear: I’m not saying you have to follow my advice. I’m just saying you should.

You’re free, of course, to disregard my advice, but I’m confident enough that you’d be wrong to do so that I wrote this blog post and put my name on it. So give it some thought; sleep on it; and do whatever it is that you have to do to “tear sh*t up” in 2014 that you’ll be too busy either optimizing some version of your site or developing new product/service that you won’t give this post another thought wink

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/31/13 at 05:55 PM
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Thank You For Seven Years Of The Hot Iron

Today, December 30, marks the 7th anniversary of the very first blog post on The Hot Iron, appropriately titled, Hello World.

photo of Heaven on Seven sign

Rather than getting mushy about the past, I’d like to thank you for reading, whether this is the first time you have read something I have written, you for some reason have been with me for the past 7 years or you are somewhere in between.

It has been an up and down journey, but aren’t they all? This past year I have gotten re-energized about blogging, and I hope to keep it up in the coming year. Only time will tell.

As I have in the past, I have wanted to have some photo to accompany the years, and this year I chose Heaven on Seven, an amazing New Orleans-style restaurant in Chicago. If you come to the Windy City, you must try it. They have 2 locations – one on the Magnificent Mile and one on Wabash Avenue, where this sign is located in front of. Go to the latter – the feel is more authentic.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/30/13 at 11:58 PM
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Traditions

To all my readers and friends who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas!

photo of plastic illuminated Santa ClausI am writing this prior to completing the final touches on our Christmas for our 2 kids. Where they are excited for what Santa Claus will be bringing them on Christmas morning, I am also trying to carry on traditions for the holidays that were part of my own growing-up. In addition to many common ones – family gatherings, gift giving, the nativity, church, etc., here’s a few unique elements of my Christmas over the years that I am sharing with them, and I would like to share with you.

Zat You Santa Claus?

Pictured is a plastic illuminated Santa Claus that towers at 3 feet tall and is over 40 years old. It was always standing watch in our breezeway window in the house I grew up in through Christmas. But on Christmas day, Santa returned to his post in the basement, not to be illuminated until the following year. When my Mom moved from my childhood home, I took Santa in, and he has been with me now for almost 20 years.

An interesting story on the jolly old elf is when I moved to Chicago, I took Santa with me. Rather than putting himinto a moving box, he sat next to me on the drive from Boston to the Windy City, literally. Donning a baseball cap, he got his share of looks from passing cars and when I stopped along the way.

The Littlest Snowman

photo of The Littlest SnowmanHave you ever heard of the story The Littlest Snowman? If you said you didn’t I wouldn’t be surprised, as many people have not. Yet for some reason, this is the one story I remember the most from Christmases long ago. My own copy of the book is long gone, but thanks to the magic of eBay, I was able to get an original copy of the hardcover Golden Book.

The story is somewhat similar to that of the other famous snowman, Frosty. Then again, we’re talking about snowmen, so other than coming to life and melting, they are limited in what they can do. But it is a cute story I remembered, and now I have read to my own kids several times through the month. Despite this, I have a sneaking suspicion Frosty is still their favorite.


photo of pizzelles

It would not be a complete story on Christmas by an Italian if there were no mention of food. Where there are many culinary traditions for the holidays, one that brings the most memories and has taken on a new meaning for me is pizzelles.

Pizzelles are a flat Italian cookie made with an iron that resembles a waffle iron. Made with basic ingredients, they were a staple for all Christmas and Easter gatherings of family, as most everybody had their own pizzelle iron and their own variation on the recipe. They are commonly flavored with anise, but can also be made with vanilla or even maple syrup- the latter was due to my family growing up in Vermont. On occasion we would have chocolate pizzelles made with cocoa powder, but anise was always my favorite.

This year I decided to carry on the tradition and make pizzelles myself. I used my Mom’s recipe, and had bought a new electric iron as hers had long ago stopped working. As you can see from the photo above, they turned out pretty good. These were from my first batch, which did not last long due to their popularity with family and visiting friends. They are really simple to make and I also had my youngest kid help in the mixing, extending the tradition to yet another generation.

Buon Natale

Thank you for allowing me to share a few of my unique Christmas traditions with you. I would like to hear what you do to make the holidays unique and you are welcome to share them in the comments of this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/25/13 at 12:06 AM
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Monday, December 16, 2013

LinkedIn Shutting Down Network RSS Feed On December 19, 2013 To My Dismay

For as many great major and incremental changes LinkedIn has made the business social networking service, they have eliminated a few services which I found resource rich and grew dependent on. One was LinkedIn Answers, a robust business question and answer section of the service which was shut down and disappeared earlier this year. Add to the list the RSS feed of network updates, which a few days ago I was informed it is going away as of the end of this week on December 19.

The following is an image of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

screenshot of LinkedIn Network RSS feed email

The following is the text of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

Dear Mike,

At LinkedIn, we strive to provide a simple and efficient experience for members so we continually evaluate how our current products and features are being used.

This sometimes means we remove a feature so we can focus our resources on building the best products.

We'll be retiring the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed on Dec. 19th. All of your LinkedIn updates and content can still be viewed on LinkedIn, or through the LinkedIn mobile app.

Please visit the Help Center for more information about the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed retirement.

Thank you,

For some time now I have been subscribed to the RSS feed of my network updates. If you use LinkedIn, this is the information on its home page, which shows updates to your connection’s profiles as well as articles they have shared, groups they have joined, if they have a new connection, etc. This would allow me to see each and every update in my growing network, which was valuable to see where people were moving and information they were sharing. It was also much easier to read, as I could scan the headlines of these changes and posts, and click on anything I wanted more information on.

In other words, the network RSS feed was simple and efficient. But wait, isn’t that the same reason why LinkedIn gave for killing it?

If you couldn’t guess I love RSS!

It goes without saying that I love RSS as it is the primary way I keep informed. RSS is not just for blogs, as I get it for news, weather, sports, events, and networking information. Of course the networking information will decrease as a result of LinkedIn eliminating the network RSS feed.

Using my RSS reader of choice, Fever, I am able to aggregate all of the above information and then some. In the case of LinkedIn, I feel because of the RSS feed I am visiting their site more often, and in the process viewing the banner ads they are selling, not to mention good old-fashioned networking. Did I mention I am viewing the banner ads more often as a result of RSS?

Business decisions for business networking

My guess is I am one of a small minority of people who actually subscribe to the RSS feed, and as a result they are simply turning off the functionality. LinkedIn promoted the RSS feed, complete with the orange RSS icon, at the top of the network updates list. I can’t remember the last time I have seen this. As I have seen little uproar from others about the cancelling of this service, maybe that minority is, as I’d say in Boston, wicked small?

In addition, by controlling the display of network updates, they have the ability to offer more information and services, such as sponsored updates. I have noticed these on the site but not in my RSS feed. Of course to add these to the feed would cost money and resources, and from their message, this is something the new-publicly traded business does not want to do.

RSS is still not dead, #VIVARSS

In the end, after the dust settles from the nuclear winters, it will be just the cockroaches and RSS. Why? Well, as for RSS, it is open and distributed, does not rely on a continuous network connection to work, and is very simple to read and process. After Google killed its Reader RSS aggregator, many wondered if RSS was dead technology. Where it may not be the shiny new object on the Internet that it was, it is a core service that can easily be adopted and utilized, and that in itself makes it valuable.

Did the LinkedIn Network RSS feed shutdown impact you? Did you even know it existed? Share your thoughts in the comments of this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/16/13 at 09:56 PM
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Amazon Associates Program Returns To Illinois And Buy This Diamond Sapphire Pendant

There were screams of joy across the Land of Lincoln (or at least in my corner of it) as I received an email inviting me back into the affiliate program for called Amazon Associates. So why not join me in celebrating by clicking the link below to buy this beautiful Platinum Cushion Cut Blue Sapphire And Round Diamond Pendant?

photo of Platinum Cushion Cut Blue Sapphire And Round Diamond Pendant

A Little Background

Residents of the state of Illinois were tossed out of the program back in 2011 upon the state’s passing of the Main Street Fairness Act. The law recognized affiliates of Amazon and other online companies, those who did not have a physical presence in Illinois, as the physical presence of those companies, and thus required purchases made through affiliate links and Web sites to be taxed with Illinois state tax. I wrote about this back then in an eloquent piece called Pat Quinn Screws Entrepreneurship In Illinois By Signing Amazon Tax Bill.

The intent of the law was to “level the playing field” – and I am quoting the politicians who supported it, including Illinois governor Pat Quinn – between brick and mortar stores across the state and online retailers, the latter who have been taking business from the former. Where the intent was good, the law did not do anything to make anything more fair for anyone. As quickly as Amazon dropped its affiliates, it never missed a beat in its own sales. Residents of Illinois were still buying from Amazon, and as a result choosing to not buy from local stores. It actually had a negative effect as people and businesses who were affiliates – from myself to other bloggers to coupon companies like Coupon Cabin – either lost money or were chased from Illinois to neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin. And as these people and companies pay taxes on their affiliate earnings, the state lost out on that tax revenue.

Welcome Back

In October, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the Main Street Fairness law, paving the way for the return of the program. Just hours before I wrote this post, I got an email from Amazon Associates inviting me back into the program, and the text of the short but to the point email is below.


We're pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We're now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:

Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.

What it means to myself and others

The return of the program is definitely good news for those who run affiliate programs or are seeking to monetize their Web sites. The world of affiliate marketing is vast and, in my opinion, fascinating and too much to talk about in this post alone. For myself and this little corner of the Internet called The Hot Iron, I am certainly not looking at the return of the program as a cash cow. In the past links to products – namely books and electronics – were affiliate links to Amazon, and if anyone purchased them, I would get a percentage of the cost.

This is why I am welcoming back the program with what I found as a very beautiful piece of jewelry, let alone pricy. The affiliate earnings for this pendant would pay for a nice vacation, or a couple of months of my daughter’s daycare. I will admit I never got rich off the program in the past, and I don’t see myself doing so in the future, as links on The Hot Iron were never obtrusive and hopefully a compliment to the site.

I also welcome your thoughts and questions on Amazon Associates in the comments to this post. I am curious if the return of affiliate programs like this one will impact you or not, or if you even knew they went away to begin with.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/04/13 at 11:27 PM
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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Send Your Box Tops For Education For My Kid’s School

Have you seen this symbol?

picture of a Box Top for Education

If you have and you don't cut them out and just discard or recycle them, may I ask you to send them to me? Why? Your unused Box Tops for Education will benefit my kid's education.

Yes, really.

The Box Tops for Education program places these small symbols on various consumer goods and products, everything from Scott toilet paper to Cheerios. Each one is worth US$.10, and some products can have multiple symbols or even unique codes to redeem online. My kid, who now attends one of the finest schools in the universe (name purposely omitted) is collecting them to benefit that very school. And those little symbols can add up - last year the school raised nearly US$1,000, and I think they can do better than that, but we will need your help.

How to help

If you would like to offload these symbols to me, please email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I will send you a postage-paid envelope for you to send them back to me. As well, if you have any products with codes to redeem online, you can send them to that email address as well.

Thank you

Special thanks in advance for sending me your Box Tops for Education, and my kid thanks you as well!

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 11/30/13 at 04:00 AM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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